Darby Elementary School in Northridge won! They won! They're going to get a $500,000 grant from Kohl's!!!
Oh wait — no they're not.
In a contest called "Kohl's Cares," the Kohl's department store chain -- a name that already evokes bitter memories for many Granada Hills residents -- promised to grant $500,000 to each of twenty schools, for a total of $10 million, who could propel themselves to the top of a vote-getting contest at the Kohl's website.
Back in late August, someone posted a note to my Facebook wall imploring readers to vote for Darby Elementary School in the "Kohl's Cares" grant contest. My grouchy reply:
"Encapsulated in this post is everything I most dislike about (a) America and (b) Internet contests that are really only tests of who can muster the highest number of votes. Tearing boxtops, snipping soup can labels, visiting the Kohl's website -- why must we constantly go begging to the corporate sector so that we can have an adequately funded education system?"Yet my seemingly misanthropic lack of encouragement for Darby's vote-getting efforts mattered not one whit (like this blog?-- ed.), and Darby managed to pull ahead of thousands of other American schools by running a huge sign-waving, Facebook-posting campaign that even Mayor Antonia Villaragosa got in on once Darby became the only west coast school in the running.
Eventually, Darby found themselves on Kohl's short list, assuring them a piece of the ten mil. Or so they thought. The excited September 6 post on the Darby PTA blog crowed, "Darby Elementary is a top 20 Kohl’s Cares contest winner! Thank you to everyone who helped the school win $500,000!" was followed on September 25 with a considerably less excited message that Kohl's had removed Darby Elementary from the top 20 due to "inconsistencies in the voting."
A letter from The Contest Factory, Kohl’s independent third-party organization employed to handle the contest execution explained that "votes deemed invalid by The Contest Factory per the contest criteria were not counted. As a result, the revised vote total shifted the final top 20 vote getting schools."
Darby's PTA President explained further that "Follow up calls to The Contest Factory revealed that "inconsistencies" came up because a large number of votes came in at one time, a large number of votes came in over early morning hours, there were emails and Facebook accounts that didn't match up and other factors."
Darby PTA's position is that "It was unfair that Kohl's and its auditors decided to "take a closer look" at only Darby and two other schools. They believe that same degree of scrutiny should be applied to all schools in the contest's top 20."
In addition to their plan to "send email messages to Kohl's executives (and) flood their Public Relations office with daily phone calls," what will Darby PTA's next move be? It's as American as apple pie and perpetually underfunded schools: they want to sue.
But they can't afford to.
"Attorneys have been consulted," says the PTA's letter, "but we are in need of an attorney who would be willing to take this on pro-bono (for free)."
Darby Principal's letter (click to enlarge)
Related stories: "Vote For Darby," Daily News.com
Thanks Brad Smith for the news tip